Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Medical Board, which is in charge of disciplining doctors and other medical professionals, has released its annual Board Actions Report for 2009.
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The number of disciplinary cases involving allegations of substandard care or professional incompetence rose to an all-time high of 66 in 2009, according to the report.
The board took action in 53 cases related to quality of care or incompetence in 2008 and 45 cases in 2007.
"The increases are linked at least in part to the rising number of Public Letters of Concern, which frequently address some aspect of quality of care," according to the board's news release.
The board issued 73 public letters in 2009 – the largest number since 2006, when changes to state law authorized the board to issue them. In 2008, the board issued 41 Public Letters of Concern. In 2007 – the first full calendar year during which public letters were issued – the board issued 46 letters.
"Public letters do not impose a specific disciplinary action," according to the board. "Instead, they create a public record of an incident involving conduct or medical care that the board determines to be concerning in some way."
When a public letter is issued, it becomes a public document posted on the board's Web site.
The board also observed "a significant increase" in cases relating to false or deceptive behavior, such as providing false information to the board – 48 cases in 2009 compared with 21 cases in 2008.
Also, the number of license denials increased for the second year in a row, with 22 denials in 2009, compared with 14 in 2008 and six in 2007.
Besides disciplining medical professionals, the board also licenses, monitors and guides them to ensure their fitness and competence.